Callinan review largely backs Sydney lockout laws, but alcohol’s role in family violence is a blind spot

Two years after they were introduced, former High Court judge Ian Callinan’s review of Sydney’s lockout laws was released earlier this week. Throughout this period supporters and opponents have been involved in a highly polarised debate about the laws’ effectiveness.

The early headlines on the report focused on some suggested “relaxations” to the laws. But its main message has largely been lost: it came down strongly on the side of the laws.

What did the report find?

The report found the government’s objective of reducing alcohol-and-drug-related assaults and anti-social behaviour remain valid. It also found that the measures introduced – including the 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks – are achieving this.

It contains a genuine attempt to assess the principal objections of the laws’ opponents and supporters against the available evidence. Callinan placed great weight on the evidence of medical professionals and emergency service workers – described as having “the least or no self-interest” – and the statistics.

The numbers are compelling:

  • a 45% reduction in non-domestic assaults in Kings Cross and a 20.3% reduction in the CBD;
  • minimal evidence of displacement of violence to surrounding areas in Sydney;
  • a 25% reduction in alcohol-related and serious critical injuries at St Vincent’s Hospital; and
  • a 69% reduction in alcohol-related facial fractures requiring surgery.

The report recognises that while the Kings Cross and CBD precincts are safer as a result of the measures, this had come at a cost to “vibrancy” and the profitability of businesses, particularly live-music venues. Callinan’s sympathy, however, was less for the hip-pockets of licensed venue operators than for:

Musicians and other entertainers [who] have been adversely economically affected by the laws.

Motivated by a desire to alleviate these effects, the report cautiously invites the government to trial a relaxation of the laws’ most-contentious aspects: a half-hour increase in the lockout time (to 2am) and last-drinks time (to 3.30am) for “genuine entertainment venues”.

It also recommends the relaxation of the 10pm closing time for bottle shops to 11pm, with home delivery until midnight. This regulation operates across New South Wales.

Who won the argument and why?

It’s clear who won the contest. But why?

The easy answer is the data “spoke”: the evidence of crime and injury reduction was overwhelming. Opponents of the laws did not produce hard data on the adverse effects they asserted could trump the evidence supporters and neutral parties tabled.

Callinan was underwhelmed by contentions advanced without supporting evidence. For example, he said it was impossible to verify or contradict the claim that:

… creative people have left Sydney for Melbourne and are thriving there.

But this report wasn’t just about numbers. Running through it is a strong value judgement on the merits or otherwise of the “night-time economy” and the part of Sydney where it thrives (or perhaps used to):

I have formed the view that the two precincts at night were grossly overcrowded, violent, noisy, and in places dirty, before the amendments, but that after them, they were transformed into much safer, quieter and cleaner areas.

Note that behaviour that is universally understood to be undesirable – violence – is conflated with some rather more mundane urban blights: noisiness, dirtiness, overcrowding.

One of the few redeeming features of this world Callinan identifies as worth protecting is the artistic endeavours of musicians – hence the suggestion of a relaxation for “genuine entertainment venues”.

The report seems to imagine a Kings Cross in which such artistic pursuits can somehow be extracted from the hurly-burly that has always been a characteristic of this area at night.

A related message is that businesses and individuals should have done more to “adapt” to the new regulatory environment in which they found themselves, such as “slightly shorter performances earlier in the evening”.

But this is a pretty simplistic take on the ease with which venue operators could change the habits of a whole generation of performers and live-music fans. Any takers for a punk band performance at 5.30pm? But perhaps that’s not what Callinan meant by “genuine” entertainment.

Whatever the motivation for the proposed relaxation of lockout and last-drinks times, an extra half-hour is likely to be regarded as token. If the NSW government decides to go down this path, live-venue operators will also need to grapple with the devil in the detail. What will qualify as a “genuine entertainment venue”?

Callinan appears to endorse a Western Australian definition that would exclude pre-recorded music and that would appear to value entertainers over others:

Any definition would need to ensure that anyone engaged to play pre-recorded music does more than mechanically reproduce the creativity of others. An entertainer needs to bring his or her engagement some genuine additional creative element, otherwise it would be easy to evade the operation of the laws.

Sorry Tiesto and co., you probably need not apply.

The domestic violence blind spot

The report’s most-troubling part has little to do with Kings Cross or live music: it is the proposed relaxation of the requirement that bottle shops close at 10pm. Callinan concludes this makes:

… little or no contribution to violence and anti-social behaviour in the precincts, even less so when it is home-delivered.

But that is not really the point.

The review’s terms of reference called for a statewide assessment of the restriction, especially in rural and remote communities. It is concerning that the report suggests the government consider relaxing this restriction, even as it acknowledges:

… such an extension may elevate the risk of domestic violence.

If crime rates were the trump card in the debate over the lockout laws, why were they pushed to the margins when it came time to reviewing the takeaway and home-delivery restrictions? The review should have refrained from making any suggestion for relaxation until a full evidence-based assessment of the likely effects on rates of domestic assaults had been undertaken.

This is yet another example of how debate, policy and law reform on alcohol-related violence tend to focus on public violence without paying sufficient attention to the role alcohol plays in “private” violence.

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

This article first appeared on The Conversation on 16 September 2016.

LIRC Researchers Highlight the Need to Consider Anti-Social Behaviour in the Callinan Review of the Lock Out Laws

In recent months there has been much debate and criticism of the NSW Government’s decision to introduce the Liquor Amendment Act 2014 (NSW), which amended the Liquor Act 2007 and implemented what are colloquially known as the ‘Lockout Laws’ in an attempt to address alcohol-related violence. Currently the Hon Ian Callinan is undertaking a review of the 1.30am lockout laws and 3am cessation of liquor sales to determine whether their policy objectives remain valid and their terms appropriate for securing those objectives. In submissions to that Review, LIRC members, Associate Professor Julia Quilter and Professor Luke McNamara (UNSW and Visiting Professorial LIRC Fellow), highlight a lesser discussed issue: whether they have met the policy objective of reducing anti-social behaviour.

As discussed in the NSW Department of Justice’s Background Paper to the Review, the rationale behind the 2014 Liquor Law amendments was not only to reduce ‘alcohol-related violence’ but also to address ‘anti-social behaviour’. Yet, that Background Paper provides no statistical data or analysis on the impact of the laws on anti-social behaviour. In their submission, Quilter and McNamara argue that it is important that the Review give discrete treatment to the assessment of anti-social behaviour – behaviour which is not synonymous with criminal behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is a phrase generally referring to undesirable behaviour that does not involve criminal harm (eg loud or boisterous behaviour in public; public urination) – but which may give rise to a criminal offence. Although not exhaustive of the category ‘anti-social behaviour’, Quilter and McNamara submitted that data should be obtained by the Review and analysed, in relation to charges and Criminal Infringement Notices (CINs) for offensive conduct, offensive language and for continuation of intoxicated and disorderly behaviour charges (respectively under ss 4, 4A and 9 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW)). Data should also be obtained about the number of intoxication move-on directions issued under s 198 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities Act) 2002 (NSW), and the number of charges and penalty notices for non-compliance.

Quilter and McNamara also highlight in their submissions that the Liquor Law amendments in 2014 were part of a legislative package that included the Crimes and Other Legislation Amendment (Assault and Intoxication) Act 2014 (NSW). The latter law, significantly increased the value of a CIN for three of the offences discussed above under the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW): offensive conduct in a public place (s 4) – from $200 to $500; offensive language in a public place (s 4A) – from $200 to $500; and continuation of intoxicated and disorderly behaviour in a public place (s 9) – from $200 to $1,100. Furthermore, the maximum penalty for the s 9 offence was increased from 6 penalty units ($660) to 15 penalty units ($1650). Quilter and McNamara submitted that not only are these laws enforced in high numbers each year, their potential for harsh and disproportionate impact on Indigenous persons has a long history. Furthermore, they submit that while the primary focus of the current Review is the effect of the 2014 Liquor Law amendments in the Sydney CBD Entertainment and Kings Cross precincts, it is important to recognise that the changes to the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW) are not geographically limited and operate across all of NSW.

Finally, Quilter and McNamara submitted that the Review should examine the availability and effectiveness of strategies that operate outside the strictly legal regulatory environment. For example, public urination (often after consumption of alcohol) is a frequent reason for charges and CINs for offensive conduct in a public place under s 4 of the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW). Solutions that do not require police involvement, including the escalation of risk associated with encounters between police and intoxicated persons, should be encouraged. These include, the wider availability of public toilets, including ‘permanent pop-up public urinals at identified sites within the late night entertainment precincts of Kings Cross, Oxford Street, and George Street’ [J Robertson, ‘Sydney Rate-payers to pay a pretty penny for pop-up urinalsThe Sydney Morning Herald, 8 April 2014.

A/Prof Quilter and Prof McNamara’s submissions to the Review can be accessed via the Liquor Law Review website.

They have also written widely on the topic of public order offences: see for example, ‘Time to define “the cornerstone of public order legislation”: the elements of offensive conduct/language under the Summary Offences Act 1988 (NSW)’ (2013) 36(2) University of New South Wales Law Journal 534-562 accessible at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/UNSWLJ/2013/20.html

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

Buskers enrich our streets and laws don’t have to hinder – they can help

Street performers have been part of cityscapes for centuries, yet buskers have often had an ambiguous relationship with the law. At various times they have been policed as “beggars in disguise,” or treated as an urban nuisance.

Recent decades have seen an about-face, with many city governments embracing buskers as a cultural and commercial asset, putting in place rules that both encourage and control busking.

This is a tricky balance. Some busking supporters believe it is impossible because busking and regulation are like “oil and water”. For example, when Campbelltown Council was considering a permit system in 2014 one reader of the Daily Telegraph said:

Busking is about a spontaneous musical experience. Pay? Booked in advance? That’s not busking!

But what about buskers themselves? We decided to ask buskers in Sydney and Melbourne what they think. In most parts of the Sydney CBD, busking is governed by the City of Sydney Busking Policy, while the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority controls busking at Circular Quay and the Rocks.

Melbourne CBD busking laws are contained in the City of Melbourne Street Activity Policy and the Busking Guidelines. The regulatory approach is the same in both cities: buskers need a permit in order to perform, there are various restrictions – location, start/finish times, duration, volume. Hefty fines for busking without a licence or breaking the rules apply, including on-the-spot fines of A$3,000 in Melbourne and A$2,200 in Sydney.

We spoke to council officers, rangers and buskers about how the rules are enforced in practice, and whether buskers think the rules stifle their ability to “do their thing”.

Researchers like to have a hypothesis. We thought the “oil and water” theory might be true, and, the rules and regulations would be regarded as onerous and over the top.

Our findings surprised us.

The rules are fair enough

Buskers accept local council busking laws as a legitimate part of the urban environment, and many see advantages in the rules.

Pragmatism is a factor here: busking is a major (and for some, primary) source of income. Only a few were philosophically opposed to state-imposed restrictions on busking.

One busker told us:

I like it [the permit system]. It keeps away the riff-raff.

Another busker explained that he thought the rules were “fair enough” because they reflected the “unspoken etiquette between buskers” that has always existed.

 

Buskers don’t experience busking laws and permit conditions as a significant constraint on their ability to perform. Instead, many buskers saw the rules as facilitating a sharing of the most popular (and lucrative) performance spots amongst buskers and a way of avoiding chaos. Said one,

It’s probably good that there are some rules. Otherwise there’d be people every—either side of you. It would just be one big noise…

There were some minor grumbles – for example, not being allowed to start performing in Pitt St Mall until 2pm on weekdays – but generally we were struck by how little buskers resented the rules.

The key to good enforcement

The “magic ingredient” of busking rules in Sydney and Melbourne is that enforcement is handled sensitively and flexibly rather than harshly.

Although hefty penalties for breaking the rules are possible in both cities, buskers and rangers told us the same thing: fines are rare. Enforcement happens in a way that is “collaborative and non-combative”. Fines are only issued where “all the other avenues have been exhausted.”

The enforcement officers we interviewed saw busking as a valuable part of the streetscape. A Sydney Ranger said,

I think this city would feel really dead without our buskers, I really do.

A Melbourne Officer expressed the same sentiment:

It’s beautiful; it makes the city nice; it’s lovely.

Buskers spoke positively about their encounters with what some of them jokingly call the “busking police”.

Appreciated and supported

 

Buskers believe they make a positive contribution to urban street life, and this contribution is widely appreciated and supported by council busking laws.

They feel the public are generally welcoming of their presence, and appreciative of what they add to urban life. Buskers are also strongly supported by local councils: street music isn’t simply tolerated; it’s encouraged.

One busker told us:

They kind of embrace the fact that buskers are here, they’re here to stay, and let’s find a good way to deal with them. Let’s make sure it’s organised and people aren’t fighting and getting in turf wars and stuff.

Ironically, the only concern expressed about the busking scene was that the competition is too fierce:

Melbourne is over-saturated with buskers, so every corner has someone doing something.

Happy and talented

So it seems that buskers and rules aren’t like oil and water. Many cities, like Wollongong and Fremantle, are still finding their way when it comes to regulating street music.

However, Melbourne and Sydney have shown that it is possible to keep most people happy most of the time.

A final comment on the quality of buskers in these two cities. It wasn’t strictly part of our study, but we were very impressed by the quality of the street musicians we encountered. Sure, there are some beginners out there – and good on them. But if it was ever the case that busking was only for “itinerants” and “wanna-bes” that’s no longer true.

We heard guitarist Joseph Zarb in Martin Place; the high energy folk Pierce Brothers and roots duo Amistat in Bourke Street Mall; Maia Jelavic in Pitt St Mall; flute and didge player Dan Richardson on Swanston St; and Jack Dawson at the Rocks.

We thank these and all the others buskers who enrich the urban environment with their energy and talent. As the then NSW Attorney General, Frank Walker, said in 1979 when introducing legislation that abolished the crime of begging – a law that had been used to shut down street performers – “Long may the buskers carry on busking”!

*This article first appeared on The Conversation (14 April 2016)

Associate Professor Julia Quilter and Visiting Professorial Fellow Luke McNamara

Greater police powers and penalties threaten civil liberties in NSW for ‘public safety’

The New South Wales government recently introduced two new laws that impose serious constraints on how we use public spaces. They represent just the latest round of expanded police powers and higher criminal penalties justified in the name of “public safety”. The government’s solution is to let police decide who has the right to protest.

State parliament passed one of these laws in March. The other has been introduced and is likely to be passed when parliament resumes in May.

The measures are said to be a response to the dangerous and disruptive activities of a “radical minority” who “abuse” the democratic right to protest, and to organised crime gangs who threaten our “way of life” if allowed to move freely in the community.

Whether these groups really do pose the risks the government claims is debatable. The bigger problem is that it isn’t just the “bad guys” who are exposed to restrictive powers and tougher penalties. Anyone whose behaviour is regarded as a public safety risk is potentially in the frame.

The government has yet again vested enormous discretion in police officers to make that assessment – in some instances with no opportunity for judicial review.

New offences and police powers

The offence of trespass has a long history as a mechanism for criminalising political protest. In the early 1970s it was used against squatters and protesters opposed to over-development in Kings Cross.

Harsh punishment was never really the objective. Having the offence on the statute books gave police a reason to intervene, arrest and charge protesters.

Now the police have a new tool in their anti-protester toolkit. This has a very different complexion. An aggravated offence of unlawful entry on inclosed lands now carries a maximum fine of A$5,500.

“Aggravation” can take two forms: interfering with the business being conducted on the land in question; or conduct deemed to give rise to a “serious risk to the safety” of anyone present, including the protester.

Even more troubling, police now have the power to give “move on” directions to break up a protest if they believe that direction is necessary to deal with a serious risk to safety. Police previously weren’t allowed to give move-on directions at an “apparently genuine demonstration or protest”.

The parliament has authorised police to be the arbiters of what makes a legitimate protest.

Public safety orders

The yet-to-be-passed bill will give a senior police officer – not a judge – the power to make “public safety orders”. These will prohibit someone from attending a specified public event or entering specified premises for up to 72 hours.

An order can be made if the person’s presence at the event or premises is regarded as posing:

… a serious risk to public safety or security.

The risk test is whether the person’s presence might result in death or serious physical harm to a person, or serious damage to property. The legislation provides for a range of matters that police must take into account. These include the person’s criminal history and the reason for their attendance at an event.

Lots of cautious words and talk of “exemptions”, such as where the purpose of a person’s presence is industrial action, don’t change the fact that the proposed law gives the police very wide discretion to decide who should be allowed to circulate freely in public. The consequences are serious. The maximum penalty for contravention of a public safety order is five years’ imprisonment.

Our system normally punishes only after guilt has been determined. But control orders, consorting laws and laws directed at closing down bikie clubhouses are all based on pre-emptive criminalisation.

The need for pre-emptive measures should be supported by strong evidence. It shouldn’t be enough to simply roll out widely demonised figures who evoke community anxiety – “militant greenies” or “violent bikies” – to justify the law.

Caught in the web

The problem with laws aimed at “bad guys” is that they frequently have wider impact.

The NSW Ombudsman found the 2012 revival of consorting laws to deal with crime gangs actually impacted most harshly on Indigenous Australians and homeless people.

Even in law-and-order-soaked NSW, it would be hard to get the public onside to criminalise the protest activities of Knitting Nannas Against Gas. But just because your tools of preference are knitting needles and bright colours rather than dreadlocks and thumb-locks, that doesn’t mean you won’t be regarded as a threat to public safety, ordered to “move on”, or threatened with the prospect of a criminal record and a $5,500 fine.

Borrowing from elsewhere

Anti-protest powers and offences were pioneered in Tasmania and Western Australia. The public safety order regime has been borrowed from South Australia.

That a law has already been introduced somewhere else tends to legitimise what is actually a radical “reform”. If Western Australians, Tasmanians and South Australians can stomach a little civil liberties infringement in the name of the greater good, why not the people of NSW?

This may be clever politics. But it is not the way to make good criminal laws.

By Associate Professor Julia Quilter and Professor Luke McNamara (UNSW and LIRC Visiting Professorial Fellow)

This article first appeared in The Conversation https://theconversation.com/greater-police-powers-and-penalties-threaten-civil-liberties-in-nsw-for-public-safety-57133

LIRC Researchers Make Submissions to Senate Inquiry into the need for a nationally-consistent approach to alcohol-fuelled violence

LIRC members, Associate Professor Julia Quilter and Visiting Professorial Fellow Luke McNamara have recently made detailed submissions to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the need for a nationally-consistent approach to alcohol-fuelled violence.

The Senate Inquiry relates to the general topic of:

The need for a nationally-consistent approach, negotiated, developed and delivered by the Federal Government together with all state and territory governments, to address and reduce alcohol-fuelled violence, including one-punch related deaths and injuries across Australia

with further more detailed reference to a number of matters.

Off the back of past and current research , A/Prof Quilter and Prof McNamara’s submissions address three matters: the need for a nationally consistent approach to defining ‘intoxication’ for criminal law purposes; whether there is a need for a nationally consistent approach to one-punch related deaths and injuries; and current law and practice in relation to the sentencing of offenders who were intoxicated at the time of the commission of the offence.

In relation to the first matter, A/Prof Quilter and Prof McNamara’s submissions argue that any nationally-consistent approach to ‘alcohol-fuelled violence’ must first grapple with the question of defining ‘intoxication’ for legal purposes. They point out that while Australian criminal law statutory provisions are frequently concerned with intoxication by alcohol, the law also includes intoxication caused by other drugs. Care needs to be taken in relation to this Inquiry as the legal concept of ‘intoxication’ is now wider and more complex than when it was limited to the effects of alcohol consumption. Their current research indicates that of more than 500 different criminal law provisions in Australia attaching significance to intoxication, there is no single or widely accepted definition of intoxication. Under-definition is widespread. Multiple different forms of language are used to draw the line between sobriety (or ‘acceptable’ levels of alcohol consumption) from alcohol (and other drug) consumption of a sufficient magnitude to warrant the intervention of the criminal law. Furthermore, where there is an attempt to draw that line statutory language is often poorly adapted to that task. They recommend that serious consideration be given to the national standardisation of legislative terminology.

In relation to one-punch laws, drawing on the work of A/Prof Quilter, A/Prof Quilter and Prof McNamara submit that recent moves (WA in 2008; NT in 2012; and NSW, Queensland and Victoria in 2014) to introduce various forms of assault causing death offences, were unnecessary. These laws have to date produced unnecessary legal complexity and operational problems. They recommend that no further offences regarding assault causing death be added to the statute books. If the Inquiry find there is a need for a nationally consistent ‘one-punch law’, they submit that it should be drafted in a way that squarely places it within a third category of fatal violence – that is, one less serious than murder and manslaughter.

Finally, the submissions discuss current law and practice in relation to the sentencing of intoxicated offenders and when intoxication may be found to be a mitigating or an aggravating factor. They note that the NSW Sentencing Council has previously examined a proposal that intoxication be treated as a ‘mandatory’ aggravating factor where ‘the offence involved violence because the offender was taking, inhaling or being affected by a narcotic drug, alcohol or any other intoxicating substance’. The report can be found here.[1] That Report extensively quotes from their previous submissions (with Dr Seear and Prof Room). Ultimately, the NSW Sentencing Council recommended against adopting intoxication as a mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing. A/Prof Quilter and Prof McNamara endorse that recommendation.

A/Prof Quilter and Prof McNamara’s submissions become Committee documents but can be accessed via the Inquiry’s homepage.

[1] NSW Sentencing Council, ‘Alcohol and drug fuelled violence’ (August 2015). While this report was prepared in August 2015 and forwarded to the NSW Attorney General it was only publicly released in March 2016.

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

 

 

LIRC RESEARCHERS EXPLAIN ALCOHOL FREE ZONES AND ALCOHOL PROHIBITED AREAS

LIRC member, Associate Professor Julia Quilter, spoke recently with News.com.au about recent moves by Sydney City Council to remove 62 Alcohol Free Zones (AFZs) in and around the city.

Drawing on previous work with Professor Luke McNamara (UNSW Law, and Visiting Professorial Fellow, LIRC), in this blog she explains what AFZs and Alcohol Prohibited Areas (APAs) are, where they came from and what powers they give to council officers and police.

In 1979 public intoxication was formally decriminalised but it wasn’t long before governments introduced alternative ways of regulating public drinking.

Since the passage of the Local Government (Street Drinking) Amendment Act 1990, local councils across NSW have taken advantage of the powers that now exist to declare certain public areas to be ‘no drinking zones’. Under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW), these are formally divided into AFZs and APAs. AFZs can cover roads, footpaths and carparks whereas APAs can be declared in parks and reserves. Originally, it was an offence to consume alcohol in these areas and police could impose a fine. In 2008 the offence was abolished and the legislation today only provides for the power to confiscate the alcohol.

Under Guidelines produced by the NSW Government these ‘no drinking zones’ are designed ‘to prevent disorderly behaviour caused by the consumption of alcohol in public areas in order to improve public safety’, and are ‘an early intervention measure to prevent the escalation of irresponsible street drinking to incidents involving serious crime’.

Over the years many councils and Police Local Area Commands have interpreted these Guidelines broadly, resulting in large numbers of ‘no drinking zones’ covering very large areas in some cases. For example, Wollongong City Council has declared a single AFZ that includes all streets, roads and carparks in the entire CBD, inner city residential and beachside areas.

The recent move by the Sydney City Council needs to be seen in the context of how AFZs and APAs have been used in the past. The proposal for a reduction in the number of sites where public drinking is banned seems to us to be a genuine attempt to: apply the criteria contained in the Government’s Guidelines; take into account evidence of a reduction of alcohol-related assaults; and be sensitive to the needs of vulnerable groups, especially homeless people.

For a more detailed account see our article published in the Sydney Law Review

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

LIRC Researchers Complete Study of the Operation of Busking Laws In Australia

LIRC members, Associate Professor Julia Quilter and Visiting Professorial Fellow Luke McNamara*, have recently completed Australia’s first ever study of the operation of local council laws governing street music and other forms of busking. Building on previous collaborative research on the criminalisation and regulation of behaviour in public places, as well as a shared love of music, Associate Professor Quilter and Professor McNamara set out to determine how successful councils have been in the tricky business of simultaneously encouraging and ‘containing’ busking. Drawing on field work in Sydney and Melbourne, Quilter and McNamara were surprised to find that, contrary to the assumption that ‘free-spirited’ buskers would resent being subjected to rules and regulations, most street performers were happy. While some buskers remain philosophically opposed to any sort of restrictions, most of the buskers they interviewed recognised that the laws were required and were fair enough. Some went so far as to say that they liked the rules – because they gave street performers certainty and legitimacy as a user of public space.

The project’s findings have been published in the latest issue of the Melbourne University Law Review.

These findings provide yet another reminder of the importance of sociol-legal empirical research of the sort conducted by LIRC researchers. If this study had simply examined the law ‘on the books’ it would have found that local council laws that govern busking are draconian and over the top. Certainly, on paper, they look that way – permit requirements, time limits, and big fines if you break the rules (up to $3000 in Melbourne and $2200 in Sydney). However, by speaking directly to council officers and rangers, and buskers themselves, about how things work in practice, Quilter and McNamara found that the risk of over-regulation has been avoided. Buskers generally reported feeling that their unique contributions to the urban streetscape were appreciated and supported. Gentle, education-focused enforcement by rangers and effective self-regulation by buskers are the magic ingredients of a regulatory model that, more often than not, gets the balance right.

This study has implications for street music across Australia and around the world. It shows that it is possible to introduce a permit system without stifling the capacity of street musicians and other performers to do their thing – including enlivening urban streets and malls and making a living.

*We would like to acknowledge the expertise and cooperation of the local council and authority employees who agreed to be interviewed for this research project, and the buskers who generously took time out from the business of enlivening the streets of Melbourne and Sydney to chat with us.

Associate Professor Julia Quilter

UOW Scholars to discuss Dave Brown et al’s recent book Justice Reinvestment: Winding Back Imprisonment

On Monday, 15 February 2016 Emeritus Professor Dave Brown et al’s recent book Justice Reinvestment: Winding Back Imprisonment (David Brown, Chris Cunneen, Melanie Schwartz, Julie Stubbs and Courtney Young) will be discussed by LIRC Professors Luke McNamara and Elena Marchetti together with US scholar Todd Clear (Rutgers) at UNSW.

See https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/unsw-law-book-forum-justice-reinvestment-winding-back-imprisonment-tickets-19794692458 for details.

Justice Reinvestment